Oregon Ducks to Watch in 2015: Royce Freeman


While many players on both sides of the ball will have to take on bigger roles for the Oregon Ducks to remain as competitive as they were last season, arguably none of them will gain as much responsibility as sophomore running back Royce Freeman. Considering he is someone who had a large role as a true freshman playing alongside Marcus Mariota, it is likely that the Ducks’ offense ends up revolving around him during this upcoming season.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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Around this time last year Royce Freeman was the third running back on the depth chart and fighting for snaps, but what a difference a year can make. The bruising tailback immediately impressed with five rushing touchdowns in the team’s first three games and ultimately leapfrogged Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner for the title of lead back. Following the Ducks’ blowout victory over Wyoming in Week 3, Freeman carried the ball at least 15 times in each one of the Ducks’ remaining regular season games.

Freeman finished his freshman season with 1,514 total yards and 19 total touchdowns and should be able to build on those numbers in his sophomore campaign. Opposing teams will have more film and information to figure out ways to strategize against him, but Royce’s increased workload and experience should allow him to keep improving in his second year.

While it is never good to see someone go down with an injury, Thomas Tyner’s season-ending injury opens the door even more for Freeman to be thrust into a large role. Tyner is hurt, Byron Marshall is at wide receiver, and now Royce is only backed up by unproven and raw players. In situations where the team needs to run, fans should expect number 21 to take the handoff nearly every time.

Much of Oregon’s success on offense this season will be bound to how Freeman is able to perform. The team has talent all over that side of the ball but if Adams or Lockie begin to struggle during a game, it will be up to the running game to bail them out. While it is certainly a stretch, it’s not too crazy to consider the sophomore as a dark horse Heisman contender. If the Ducks want to get back to the College Football Playoffs, someone is going to have to take them there.

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